It’s dark and the park is ours again.
The yoga-pant moms and work-Visa nannies have taken their squalling brats home, fed them nutritionally void plates of gummy pasta and orange sauce that tastes nothing of cheese, and tucked them into their race-car beds.
We converge on the pavilion like vultures on a bloated deer carcass. I spent the day on the far side of town, so I arrive later than usual. By the time I get there, Tweeker and Danny Boy have already collected any cigarette butts worth saving and Big Pete has searched the trashcans for aluminum.
I let the clink of coins gathered from the wishing fountain in front of the library console me.
The night is clear, so I head over to the merry-go-round. I like to set it spinning slightly before I lay down in the center, wrapped in an old blue tarp I found behind the home improvement store. I stare up at the sky and watch the constellations revolve around me. Snores float up from Rico’s bench to my right.
The tarp crackles as I turn my head. Big Pete sits like a mountain in his usual spot, keeping watch. Little Pete sleeps curled into a ball under a flannel jacket some Good Samaritans brought last week, along with gallon zip-lock baggies filled with soap, granola bars, and dry socks.
The jacket was big enough for any one of us, but a silent agreement – quick flickers of eye contact that rippled around the circle of men – ensured that it ended up wrapped around Little Pete’s narrow shoulders.
The sight of Little Pete and the jacket–such a small lump of human under such a small sign of humanity–makes my throat uncomfortably tight. I turn back to the spinning stars.
*from prompt “Along for the Ride”